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Corruption fight: Nigerians want stronger, independent EFCC, ICPC

Nigerians have advocated stronger anti-corruption agencies by ensuring their independence, to enable them tackle rising cases of high profile corruption cases in the country.

They said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) should be allowed to function without political interference.

Those who made the call in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), while assessing the performance of the two anti-graft agencies said they have performed relatively well but stressed on the need to enhance their capacities, in line with global best practices.

Some of the respondents said apart from making the agencies completely independent, it was important for them to be funded adequately.

They also canvassed special courts to adjudicate on corruption cases within specific time limits.

Martin Idachaba, a lecturer in the Department of Law, Kogi State University, Ayingba, said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade had, so far, recorded some achievements.

He said that there was a massive recovery of looted funds, blockage of treasury leakages through the Treasury Single Account and imprisonment of some corrupt public officers, including former governors.

He, however, alleged that politicisation of the anti-corruption fight and failure to investigate accusations involving politically exposed persons had cast doubt on the anti-corruption fight.

Idachaba added that weak internal controls in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) has encouraged corrupt practices in the civil service.

He said there was still financial recklessness, abuse of budgetary processes and non compliance with due process of appropriation in the MDAs.

Idachaba, therefore, recommended that mechanism be put in place to reduce opportunities for corruption.

He added that the government should deploy more technology to reduce direct contact, where possible, between government officials and the public, to discourage bribery and corruption.

The lecturer added that the fight against corruption required strong institutions that must be free from undue executive, legislative and judicial interference.

Idachaba emphasised the need for the judiciary to speed up the delivery of judgment in corruption cases.

He said that it was imperative for judges to stop giving teeth to corruption through undue adjournments of corruption cases.

Idachaba said like election matters, there should be a timeline for the determination of corruption cases, saying the current situation of delaying high profile cases of corruption often dampens the morale of personnel involved in the anti-graft war.

Another legal expert, Mr Samuel Nda, also called for the strengthening of the anti-corruption agencies to ensure optimal performance. He said he would not rate the anti corruption agencies in the country very low, in view of the environment and circumstances in which they operate.

He said strengthening the institutions through legislation, improved funding and making them more independent would improve their performance.

The lawyer advocated for legislation that would empower the anti-corruption agencies to keep suspects, when arrested, till the completion of investigation.

Nda, however, advised the anti-corruption agencies to always undertake proper investigations before making arrests, in line with global best practices.

He faulted the trend among anti-corruption agencies, especially the EFCC, where suspects were arrested without proper investigation.

Mr Olagunju Adetola, a civil servant, said corruption in the country had reached the level of a national emergency.

He called for a collaborative strategy involving the government and the citizens, to face the challenges posed by corruption head-on.

Adetola said the government must continue to tighten the noose on persons corruptly enriching themselves within the system, to discourage others from the act.

Mrs Beatrice Samuel, a lawyer, said that the government should demonstrate the political will to deal with any corrupt person without fear or favour. She also canvassed legislative and judicial support in the fight against the scourge of corruption in the country.

Another respondent, like Mr Benjamin Kayode, advised that anti-corruption agencies must have strong evidence before sweeping on suspects.

Kayode, who lives in Abuja, said invasions and arrests based on suspicion were not good for the image of the anti-graft agencies.

For 28-year-old Nnamdi Agu, the agencies must carry out proper investigation before arrest, to enhance their credibility. He claimed that his residence was invaded by EFCC operatives in 2020 based on false information, while he was at work.

Agu said that the operatives met his wife and informed her that they got information that the house was being used to harbour internet fraudsters, which they found to be erroneous.

He said the invasion aroused suspicion towards him from neighbours and he had to relocate to another environment.

A banker, Mrs Eunice Eweka, advised the anti-corruption agencies to make adequate background checks before confronting suspects, to prevent embarrassing confrontations that may stall credible operations.

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